HOJ – the home of jewellery supplies

Jenny Berich meets the couple running Australia's only one stop shop for jewellery supplies.
After 33 years in the Australian jewellery industry, House of Jewellery stocks everything that jewellery retailers and manufacturers need to make and sell jewellery – but no actual jewellery.
Though the name seems somewhat incongruous now, HOJ managing director, Selwyn Brandt, explains that it was 100 percent accurate when the company first opened for trading in 1977.
Then, the company which was owned and operated by the Morton family, sold only jewellery and was the agency for a number of major watch and jewellery brands including TAG Watches, Fortunoff and Unoaerre.
However in the 1980s, the company broadened its product mix to include ‘tools and equipment’ also ‘display and packaging products’ and employed a jewellery store designer to help customers design their own stores.
According to Selwyn, this expansion turned House of Jewellery into a unique ‘one-stop shop’ for jewellery retailers and manufacturers.
“A jeweller could come into House of Jewellery and have their store and workshop designed and fitted out with showcases, display and equipment and then stocked with all the jewellery and watches that they needed.”
“From a conceptual point of view it provided jewellers with a complete service that no one had done before or has duplicated since.”
Selwyn, who began his jewellery industry career in South Africa where he established a findings wholesale business, joined House of Jewellery in 1987 as the manager of the tools and equipment division.
His arrival at House of Jewellery coincided with a period of massive change and growth for the company
In 1989, the company was acquired by Universal Retailers (then parent company of Goldmark and Displayrite) which then rapidly increased its Goldmark store numbers from 20 to 100 and purchased the Prouds retail chain of around 100 stores.
However, Universal Retailer’s rapid expansion came to an abrupt halt in December 1996 when the group entered voluntary administration.
Five months later the administrator “broke up” Universal Retailers and sold each company separately – Prouds to Pascoes, Goldmark to Angus & Coote, Displayrite to the then manager and House of Jewellery to Selwyn and his wife Sandy.
“It was a case of business as usual for a while when we took over,” recalls Selwyn, “but we have gradually implemented changes over the years including increasing our stock range, launching our website, improving customer service and opening an office in Brisbane.
The Company also took over two smaller businesses; Ladybird Gems and Books (gemmological instruments and book department) and the Rudolf Gunz industrial company (specialising in products for jewellers and dental technicians).
Equally importantly Selwyn and Sandy have also created a new logo for House of Jewellery that focuses on the company’s acronym, HOJ, and thus lessens the emphasis on the word ‘jewellery’.
“We knew that the name was no longer descriptive of the company’s products and services but it is such a known name in our industry that we were loathe to change it so we just shortened it to HOJ” explains Selwyn.
Still located at its original 89 York Street address in Sydney’s CBD and more recently in Brisbane CBD as well, today HOJ is no longer just a “one-stop shop” but, according to Selwyn, a “one-stop shop experience”.
Indeed on any given weekday HOJ is full of jewellery retailers and manufacturers browsing the shelves and filling their shopping baskets with much needed supplies including hand tools, machinery, labels, display and packaging, optical products, books, findings and beading supplies.
And for the customers who can’t make it to the showroom, HOJ offers customers the same extensive product range by fax, email and phone.
“We are very focussed and sensitive to customers’ requirements,” says Selwyn, hence our motto “sure we sell jewellers supplies, but people are our business!
“We try to employ the right people and invest a lot in staff training to excel in customer delight.”
The Company’s current staff (13 in Sydney and 3 in Brisbane) is made up of a gemmologist, a packaging and display expert, seven jewellers and “a very able administration team”.
“Our staff are not ‘just sales people’,” says Selwyn. “They are technically trained at the same level as the person making the enquiry.
“This means that when they talk to a jeweller about a technical issue they speak the same language – and that makes a huge difference to the level of service we can offer.”
Despite the company’s obvious success, Selwyn says HOJ will continue to grow and change as it always has.
He says plans are underway for “further expansion” in both Sydney and Brisbane with the Brisbane showroom “soon to move to larger and better located premises”.
In addition the company is planning to launch a new website and catalogue in the “near future”.
“HOJ has always emerged as the industry leader and we will continue to bring innovation to jewellers in both exciting new products and exceptional service,” he says.
“We are committed to offer our customers the best range, competitive pricing and friendly service.”